“Now people see the president and Congress are like a gang of people just trying to protect themselves from crimes they’ve already committed with impunity,” said Fernando Carrera, a former foreign minister and analyst.
Even though the court acted quickly, he warned that “instability will continue to grow, and economic and institutional deterioration will worsen.”
Two weeks ago, Iván Velásquez, the Colombian prosecutor who leads the panel, known by its Spanish initials as Cicig, and Attorney General Thelma Aldana announced an investigation into the president’s party over campaign finance irregularities. As secretary general of the party during the 2015 campaign, Mr. Morales was responsible, they said.
Two days later, Mr. Morales ordered Mr. Velásquez to leave the country. Although the Constitutional Court quickly reversed that order, Mr. Morales’s reputation was battered.
“President Morales lost a lot of support when he wanted Cicig out of the country,” Mr. Carrera said.
The court appears to have blocked the legislation, but many believe the battle between Cicig and the government will persist. Although Congress voted to protect Mr. Morales from prosecution last week, his son and brother are accused in a separate Cicig investigation.
And Cicig’s focus on campaign finance — which the panel has called “the original sin” of Guatemala’s political system — means that prosecutors are casting a wide net over Guatemala’s political establishment and the businesses that finance it.
The government’s hostility toward Cicig pits Mr. Morales directly against the United Nations and the United States, a strong supporter of the panel.
If Guatemala’s political establishment tries still more measures to weaken Mr. Velásquez and Ms. Aldana, it also faces a wild card in the reaction on the streets.
Two years ago Guatemalans filled the capital’s giant central plaza for 20 straight weekends to protest corruption, an unexpected outpouring of revulsion among citizens long cowed by dictatorship and a long and bloody civil war. The demonstrations led to the resignation of President Otto Pérez Molina, who now awaits trial on a number of fraud charges, along with many in his cabinet.
Mr. Morales, a former television comedian, won the election that followed almost by default because he was seen as an outsider, despite running for a party founded by right-wing former military officers.
Manfredo Marroquín, president of the board of Acción Ciudadana, Transparency International’s Guatemala branch, warned that the protests could resurge.
“The people feel betrayed again,” Mr. Manfredo said. He was among those who filed a challenge to the laws in the Constitutional Court on Thursday. “The president had a clear mandate when he was elected because he wasn’t a traditional politician, but now he’s being saved by the most traditional political powers.”
He added: “The people have to come out, because if not, they’ll just continue with this plan — and it’ll get worse.”
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